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Q&A: Director Luciano Onetti on Experimental Neo-Giallo, “SONNO PROFONDO”

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Neo-giallo is a fascinating, often exhilarating thing. As the beloved genre is currently seeing a revival, be it in small stylistic nods or all-out throwback, the current incarnations are more interesting than average subgenre homage. Possibly because giallo is so steeped in style, design and psychosexual leanings, the current crop aren’t tediously adhering to formula.

In some cases, they’re using it to subvert expectations and craft something wholly unique (BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO). Others are using it as opportunity for spoof (THE EDITOR). Filmmakers like AMER and STRANGE COLOUR… duo Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani, meanwhile, are fetishizing its aesthetic into experimental and stylistic overload. Argentinian filmmaker Luciano Onetti falls in with the latter, while attempting to make something traditional as well. His POV-heavy SONNO PROFONDO (aka DEEP SLEEP) is an intense journey, meticulously crafted by the musician and garnering visceral reaction across the board.

As an admirer of the film, I spoke with Onetti—as translated by his brother and producer Nicolás—about SONNO PROFONDO and harkening to a specific era of horror filmmaking.

FANGORIA: How did you come to make a giallo and what did you want to avoid doing in crafting one?

LUCIANO ONETTI: SONNO PROFONDO was born from a reunion with my brother, Nicolás, who invited me to watch some giallo films that we had watched when we were kids. I think he reserved them with the intention of getting me into the world of cinema. Beyond the fact we love a lot of cinema genres, giallo caught my attention from the very beginning. A simple and specific genre, with a twisted way of telling stories and yet simple in terms of production. I think this was what encouraged me to make this movie.

From the beginning, the idea was to make a giallo film like the old ones, travelling in a kind of mental time machine to feel as if I was in that time period in order to give continuity to the genre… as if it truly was another film from the ‘70s. I also included my personal interpretation of the giallo genre and its film look and took special care to achieve that typical sound without modern mastering processes.

SONNO PROFONDO tries to avoid the typical giallo story, that is, detectives solving a case. I decided to show what the killer experiences and feels without showing what the detectives are investigating about him. And I consider this was the best option for my first movie: to show something unusual; to engage in a project that would get good and bad reviews. I prefer receiving positive or negative criticism for making something different than getting a bad review for doing something that has already been made before.

FANG:  The score was done yourself. How long have you been creating music?

ONETTI:I learned how to play guitar when I was a kid, but I learned to play it by ear and had to turn it upside down, since I’m left-handed. The first riff I learnt was Nirvana’s “Come as You Are”. My music comes from my soul: I cannot follow a mathematical rule that tells me which chords I should be playing.
I started recording my guitar from one cassette to another in an old stereo double cassette deck, and later, I learned how to combine guitar and bass tracks. Later on, when I had a computer, sound editing became easier. So I started to record rock songs.

I’ve always enjoyed making all types of music and I really loved giallo music in particular. I think it’s an exclusive music style that fits snugly in this genre. No other music type can be used; it’s a unique hallmark, like the use of leather gloves. Giallo cannot exist without leather gloves. I composed the soundtrack of the film once I edited the scenes. In SONNO PROFONDO, the role of music is to replace dialogue, so I had to compose something interesting to catch the attention of spectators. One of my main objectives was to take the viewer away to a visual and sensory tour to the golden decade of giallo.

FangoriaOnetti

Onetti

FANG:  There’s certainly a giallo revival happening, but it’s not simply homage. To wit, SONNO PROFONDO experiments with style (mostly POV) and subverts the typical killer. What did you want to say or explore with the genre, by using so much POV?

ONETTI:Recently, many people think there’s a resurrection of giallo. From my point of view, the new ‘self-proclaimed’ giallo films (AMER, BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO, etc) are films that just use some elements of this genre. They are very personal interpretations of the genre. The fact of using leather gloves and kill someone doesn’t mean that the film is a giallo (as in THE COLLECTOR). Giallo is giallo in the same way tango is tango. Some musicians have been experimenting with electronic music to create some kind of “electrotango”, but this new genre is never gonna replace old, traditional tango. In fact, people have been listening classic tango for over fifty years. That’s why I decided to play with the genre, but without crossing the boundaries. I experimented with the POV way of telling the story to put aside police investigation. Though some critics compared the style of SONNO PROFONDO with MANIAC, I have to say that we started with our movie in 2012, and I watched MANIAC this year (2014), so I didn´t know this film used the POV too.

I always loved the music and the use of POV of the classic giallo films, so I decided to use both of them (among other elements) to tell my story. I think SONNO PROFONDO tells an interesting story; it´s not only music and visual deliriums. On most occasions, spectators understand the story in a second viewing because in the first one they observe the details that make  SONNO PROFONDO “a movie that seems to have been filmed in the ‘70s.”

FANG: What’s next?

ONETTI:I think I have matured and grown in many ways for my next film. Film festivals and critics helped a lot. The next film will be produced again by my brother Nicolás and what’s best is that the script was written by both of us. This new film is a real strenghtened giallo in regards to the story, its visual elements and its music. More violence, more blood, more eroticism. Maybe my time machine can take spectators to the ‘80s.

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SONNO PROFONDO is now available on DVD from BRINKVision. For more, see our Chris Alexander’s review

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About the author
Samuel Zimmerman
Fangoria.com Managing Editor Samuel Zimmerman has been at FANGORIA since 2009, where fresh out of the Purchase College Cinema Studies program, he began as an editorial assistant. Since, he’s honed both his writing and karaoke skills and been trusted with the responsibility of jury duty at Austin’s incredible Fantastic Fest. Zimmerman lives in and hails from The Bronx, New York where his pants are too tight and he’ll watch anything with witches.
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